Group Integration and Dissociative Identity Disorder

From the start of our healing journey 9 years ago, none of the girls nor I have had much interest in what is regularly pushed as the consummate goal of healing from dissociative identity disorder: integration. If anything, my time with my girls, and on WordPress and interacting on other d.i.d. sites has convinced me that this goal is not only misdirected but also continues the dissociation under a new guise. I talked about our views of integration in the past, but I never had much I could definitively say about what an alternative might look like until recently.

In spite of Jenny’s domination of things on the outside for the last 2 years, I noted in my last post that the other 7 girls have continued to make some progress. I feel one of the clearest areas of progress has been toward our goal of group integration. For us ‘group integration’ means removing the dissociative walls between all the system members so that there can be inherent interaction and collaboration. We feel that ALL the girls are important, and that truth has been born out over the course of this healing journey. Every girl, no matter how small a role she has in the system, has personality traits or abilities that she alone controls. In fact, as a husband and man, I readily admit that some of the very attractive traits I would desire in a woman are controlled by the 4 littles in my wife’s system and not the 4 older girls.

So, one of our goals after the trauma was addressed was to find at least one unique niche for each girl to fill in the group. Now the two most dominant girls, Amy and Karen, control many, many areas in my wife’s personality. KA and Alley control fewer than Amy and Karen. And the 4 littles individually control the least. But we have worked hard to find even the most subordinate girl, Shelly, a place that is hers alone to control. In fact, we gave her a place of great honor in the group: she is the ‘bookworm’, the girl who controls and directs the entire group’s insatiable desire to read murder mysteries.

Our goal for group integration has always been to create a group where all girls are welcome and all give valued input to the group as a whole. But in the last 6 months or so, I’ve noted a shift: Amy and Karen have started to become the group spokespersons. Previously, whoever controlled a trait or area of expertise always came out front to lead the other girls. But lately even Alley and KA have been inclined to let Karen and Amy front while the entire group engages in areas controlled by them or others. And even Karen will defer to Amy unless we are in public because Amy NEEDS to be the one talking. She was the first girl to join Karen and me and she has ALWAYS been the girl who remained dominant at home even when the ‘new’ girls were consuming so much of the outside time to heal and connect with me and the others.

This shift was a little disconcerting to me at first. A few months ago Alley announced her desire for us to get engaged. And so we began to look for engagement jewelry. In the past, Alley would have been in front shopping the entire day with me except when they needed to talk to other people. But repeatedly Alley allowed Karen to be in front with me while we looked for her, Alley’s, engagement jewelry. From time to time I would pull Alley out, just to be sure she felt properly represented by Karen, and she never had any complaints.

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A Working Theory of Human Personality

How do I posit a working theory of human personality? I am just a husband who had only a smattering of psych discussions in classes more than 25 years ago on the subject (so reader beware! lol). And yet after 6 years of helping my girls heal from the fractured personality that dissociative identity disorder gave them, I have struggled to provide myself some kind of framework to use as I help them and figure out where to point them toward final healing. I’m still struggling how to conceptualize what I have learned as I have lived with their disorder 24/7 for over 6 years, but here it goes.

I think when we are born we have a large portion of the personality traits and abilities spectrum available to us. I do think there are other factors that determine our relative strengths and weaknesses in areas (which is outside the scope of d.i.d. and therefore this entry), but we start out with a full slate of personality traits available.

But trauma and choice and upbringing and experiences seem to chip away at our ability to access that full spectrum of available traits. I think people whom we would call “far right” and “far left” have over the course of their lives moved into very narrow positions within their possible personality ranges. They are then held captive from being able to see multiple perspectives at one time. Not only can they no longer see multiple perspectives, but they feel threatened by others who do. Hence, not only the religious wars against the un- and anti-religious and vice versa, but also our political and cultural wars between left and right. The more polarized one becomes, the smaller the amount of choices that are left to him/her within their personal paradigm.

We regularly use the language of multiples in our daily lives, and yet the stigma of hearing voices in our culture is such that we shun the value of holding multiple perspectives on a single issue. Our mind is trying to provide us with multi-layered and complex perspectives so that we can make the best possible decisions and experience life fully, but our cultural tradition upholds the ‘clarity’ afforded by simplistic, single mindedness over the more complex and mature ability to be double (or multi-) minded. Here are just a few of the terms that we use that hint at the multiple nature we all have within our brains: “fully engaged” vs. being on “auto pilot”, “on the one hand…, but on the other hand…” being “double minded”, “part of me thinks”  etc. just to name a few. I wonder if Freudian slips can be better understood in light of multiplicity and recently experienced it myself when I had intended to buy a certain flavor of coffee to please my girls, but when I got to the front of the line, I ‘found’ the flavor I preferred in my hands… More

Best Friends

As Karen and I have traveled the last 5 years together on a journey of healing from her dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder, we have been joined by 6 other, delightful girls. The last girl, Tina, joined us two January’s ago.

In the beginning each girl established herself in my wife’s network as an independent person. It was extremely critical to each one that I love her for herself, and NOT because of Karen. Each girl was also extremely concerned that I could easily differentiate her from the others, and when I could discern the switches between girls, even if she didn’t say anything, she would be both amazed and delighted that I knew “my girl”.

But the goal of healing d.i.d. is to tear down the dissociative walls that separate them from acting as a normal and healthy unit. And so this year we have seen a natural coalescing of the 7 girls.

Originally we had Karen, the host; Amy the 6 year old who took care of “her little girl” Sophia; Alleylieu the defender; and KA the inside mother of Amy. Shelly was the little sister of Alley. And last of all, Tina joined us to complete the network of girls comprising my wife.

But last year the girls began to change how the network was aligned. First KA began to gravitate toward Alley. They both were the oldest girls. They both wanted to be my girlfriend. And they began to act more and more in tandem with each other. They still wanted me to differentiate them, but often their voices would blend. They did almost everything together. And they became “best friends.” More

An Expert’s Opinion about Integration

Of the professional therapists that I read on wordpress, Kathy Broady’s blog about dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder, is the one that I find most interesting. She recently did a post on integration that I wanted to provide a link to:

http://discussingdissociation.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/integration-a-new-category-and-nine-quick-opinions/

I briefly covered this topic in a past post here:

https://samruck2.wordpress.com/2010/11/16/out-with-integration-in-with-cooperation/

For those spouses and loved ones who have followed my blog, let me state that I find “integration,” as it is often presented to multiples, to be a deceptive goal. I don’t know about you, but I am a singleton and I still have voices in my head. And yet, integration is often presented to the host of a multiple network as a way to rid themselves of the unwanted voices. I hate to break it to my multiple readers, but having lived with my girls for the last 4 years, I now see “singletons” more properly as “non-dissociated multiples.” That realization has actually been quite enlightening about my own inner workings. I’m not saying there’s a cacophony in my head all the time because my voices have been working together for 45 years. But sometimes it IS noisy inside for me, too!

My girls HATE the word integration. In fact, I’ve never read any other insider on wordpress with a different opinion. Integration only seems to be embraced by hosts and therapists. Insiders, however, seem to see it as annihilation, and so I always assure my girls that I have worked to damn hard bringing life and healing to them to allow them to disappear. No integration for my girls!

So what is the goal we have for my wife’s healing? More

Insiders Are Not the Problem: They Are the Solution

There seems to be a prevalent attitude among many people with dissociative identity disorder that one’s alters or insiders are the source of their problems. My girls have looked at many websites that are for people with DID, and a significant number of the websites had a very negative attitude toward insiders. Moreover, I have read other bloggers who have had therapists who prefer not to work with insiders. I’ve read quotes from books by “experts” that were anti-insiders. I know of some very misguided Christians who have tried to exorcise insiders or “send” them to heaven as a way to induce healing. And I have joined a couple of groups that focus on trauma and partners of DID loved ones only to be informed that they found me “overly” engaged with the insiders. Thus I was promptly black listed from any real participation. What the heck is going on with such Neanderthal opinions?!

My girls find this attitude extremely upsetting, but I always tell them in response, “The happiest days of my life are when another girl wants to join me on the outside.”

On a personal level I find the various inside girls highly delightful and engaging though I will admit that their neediness can be very demanding especially in the beginning. Even though the DID limits them, each inside girl has her own personality. And the more I engage them on the outside, the more developed they become as a unique “individual.” I have yet to meet an insider I didn’t like even when Alexis, now Alley, hated me in the beginning. However, it was extremely important to each and every girl that I liked them for themselves and NOT because they were “part of Karen” (which I don’t believe anyway). I was repeatedly questioned about my motives for loving them. They didn’t want to be only a means to an end.

I’m “pro-insider,” and it’s a badge I wear proudly without any excuse!

But there’s a pragmatic aspect to being “pro-insider” even though it’s not my main motivation. Again, I’m not a therapist, but in my mind I view every person kind of like a dinner plate that has all the aspects of a person’s being written upon the plate: rationality, motor skills, sexuality, emotional capacity, logic, speaking ability, etc. Trauma, like a hammer, will bust that plate up into dissociated pieces. But on each broken piece one will still find a variety of entire or partial functions written upon it. Two or three pieces may have the letters that say “motor skills.” Each piece of that broken plate is linked with a person we would recognize as an insider or alter (ack, hate that term!). With my girls it would seem only Karen, the host, continued to develop in the areas of the core personality that she controlled. The other girls were frozen to quarantine the trauma from Karen, and with the trauma the abilities that were under each girl’s control also froze.

Since the little girls, Amy, Alley, Sophia, Shelly and KA, have joined me on the outside during the last 3 years ago, I have noticed that they are emotionally and socially developing in areas that largely were absent or underdeveloped in Karen. Thus as I live with and love these girls, I’m realizing that integration isn’t enough. By giving them a second chance at a happy childhood I’m allowing those regions of their being/brain that they control to thaw and develop like they naturally would have 35 years ago. In a compressed amount of time, I’m helping these girls go through many of the stages of childhood that they missed the first time. Hopefully this means when we are done healing, I should have a normal and emotionally-healthy wife. No more dysfunctional social, emotional and marital issues. And based on the evidence I’m observing, I don’t think this will be a “healing” that is simply content to teach the host a retinue of “coping” skills.

Again, I’m not a therapist and I can’t conduct scientific tests, so take what I’m saying however you would like, but from my vantage point it seems like my wife’s being is finally growing up in all aspects. In the past she was always accident prone. Amy very clearly controlled this aspect of motor skills when she first came out. The accidents increased for the first two years Amy was with us much to the frustration of the other girls. They were covered in bruises and cuts! But now as she has gotten lots of time outside to grow up, the accidents have significantly diminished. More

Out with Integration, In with Cooperation

I’m not sure there is a more hated word in the world of the insiders than that word: integration. Whether it is my girls, Amy and Alleylieu, or an insider friend of mine, or as I read other people’s blogs about DID, over and over, the insiders seem to be unanimous: integration is equated with annihilation and the thought of it is very traumatic. And yet we outsiders trudge on, determinedly using the word as we seem unsympathetic to the fear and agitation it creates in the very people we claim to want to help.

Moreover, our use of this word seems to reflect the assumption held by many therapists and even many hosts that the insiders aren’t real “people.” Thus, our use of dehumanizing language for them: parts, alters, etc. Karen called the other girls “aliens” for quite awhile at first. Ugh…. Well I, for one, am done using that word. I may be dense, but I do not want to be pigheaded.

Here is what Merriam Webster’s dictionary says of “integration”: a : incorporation as equals into society or an organization of individuals of different groups (as races) b : coordination of mental processes into a normal effective personality or with the individual’s environment.

It’s really not such a bad word if we would stick with the first definition. For in the first definition we can still see the idea of many working together as a unified group. However, in the world of DID, it is the second definition that is typically meant: many melting into a singular entity or personality typically that of the host.

And as I have talked with DID ladies, and insiders, and lived with my girls these last 2+ years, I’m not even sure the second definition of “integration” truly reflects how I, as a ‘singleton,’ always function. I can’t speak for all ‘singletons’ but I most definitely have various voices in my head at times. Sometimes they even feel like they are coming from different places inside me. If I am considering an extremely complex situation, I may have multiple “voices” weighing in on a decision I must make. It’s especially true when something is upsetting to me.

But the key difference between me and my girls is that for me there is a spirit of cooperation among the various voices. Unlike in a DID situation where at any given moment one voice or insider can ‘body slam’ the others into a locked up box on the inside, all my voices get to be heard if they so desire. And thus, any decision “we” make is based upon all who desire to have input in the decision. More